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Sunny weather brings high number of craft fans to Deerfield

  • Brooks McCutchen, left, and Janis Steele, of Berkshire Sweet Gold Maple Farm in Heath, talk with customers about their maple syrup products Saturday afternoon at the 44th Old Deerfield Fall Arts and Crafts Festival. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Brooks McCutchen and Janis Steele, of Berkshire Sweet Gold Maple Farm in Heath, talk with customers about their maple syrup products Saturday afternoon at the 44th Old Deerfield Fall Arts and Crafts Festival. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Jewelry from Beadin’ in Eden on display Saturday afternoon at the 44th Old Deerfield Fall Arts and Crafts Festival. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Pottery made by Level Studio Arts in Easthampton on display Saturday afternoon at the 44th Old Deerfield Fall Arts and Crafts Festival. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Pioneer Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra members Maddie Raymond, 15, and Rowan Kehrer, 15, perform for attendees of the 44th Old Deerfield Fall Arts and Crafts Festival on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Vendor booths set up during the 44th Old Deerfield Fall Arts and Crafts Festival on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/23/2019 5:29:54 PM

DEERFIELD — Beautiful weather starred alongside the crafts at the 44th Old Deerfield Fall Arts and Crafts Festival this weekend.

“To have this beautiful weather, it’s a nice blessing,” said John O’Neill, coordinator of the fair, which is organized by the nonprofit Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA). Proceeds support the organization’s historical and educational programs.

On Saturday afternoon, Beth Gilgun, a 10-year volunteer of the fair, was shocked by the number of visitors.

“I have never seen the (entrance) gate as busy as that,” said Gilgun, who works at the Deerfield Teacher’s Center, also operated by PVMA.

Looking at rows of white-topped booths with patrons milling about, O’Neill was pleased.

“This is the payoff of a lot of hard work with a great number of people,” he said. “It’s rewarding to see this after the hard work of myself and others.”

There were about 145 craftspeople selling handmade jewelry, soaps, paintings, specialty maple syrup, leather goods, pottery and wood decor, among other items. All crafts sold at Old Deerfield must be handmade, O’Neill said, with fair organizers verifying production when sellers apply to participate.

“It’s not a carnival atmosphere. It’s more of a fair atmosphere,” O’Neill said, noting the relaxed pace and pointing out a craft tent for children.

There, mother-daughter duo Reba-Jean and Piper Pichette helped eager youngsters in creating their “make-and-take” craft: bilboquet, the predecessor to games like ring-on-a-stick or ball-in-a-cup, the Pichettes explained.

Finger painting nature items, often with the fall season in mind, was another activity offered at the craft tent.

“We have to raise the next generation of artists and crafters,” Reba-Jean Pichette said.

Near the goat petting station, first-time fairgoer Kayla Harris, 28, of Winchester, N.H., said she came with her mother and aunt, who attend the fair every year.

“I was intrigued,” Harris said, adding that she decided to come because “I like crafty things.” Clutched in her hand were a few bags.

One bag contained a salt-and-pepper shaker set decorated with cows, one of Harris’ favorite animals.

Another bag contained winter gloves, purchased by Harris’ relative at Merry Trading Company, said owner Arthur Merry, adding that he remembered Harris’ mother and aunt from previous years.

The displays at Merry Trading Company’s booth featured winter items, like fur hats, leather gloves and moccasins.

Despite the heat, it was business as usual, Merry said, adding that sales generally dip when the thermometer rises above 75 degrees. On hotter, sunny days like Saturday, many of the items purchased are often on Christmas wishlists, which can help sales even when patrons aren’t thinking about winter months, he said.

With competition coming from similar items found in mainstream catalogs and stores, Merry said that tight-knit relationships in the craft world help them to weather the storm.

“We guard that with our lives,” Merry said of those relationships.

Kimberly Irons agreed relationships are also a key part of her business. Irons and her husband, Jim, weld scrap metal into whimsical designs, such as an upright bird, with a body of a shovel, wings of a rake and a colander as its tuft.

Repeat customers buy annual birthday gifts during the summer craft circuit, with a recent customer offering Irons help after her recent heart surgery.

Her relationships to everyday materials, like forks and old irons, have changed, too.

“You just look at things differently,” Irons said, now that she does craft welding around 30 hours per week.

Personally, creating brings Irons joy, something that she tries to pass on to fairgoers, particularly by keeping her prices low.

“It’s not for much if people smile at it, but can’t take it home,” Irons said of her work.

Reach Maureen O’Reilly at 413-772-0261, ext. 280 or moreilly@recorder.com.




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